Dozens of education advocates and community activists lined up at the March 6 meeting of the Schools Development Authority to decry unsafe conditions in many New Jersey schools.
Representatives from Trenton, Paterson, Camden, and many other communities across the state shared stories of unsafe, unhealthy conditions in their local schools and urged the SDA to increase the pace of construction and repairs.
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Marie Blistan reminded SDA board members of their responsibility to New Jersey’s children. “The people of New Jersey – through their elected leaders -- set aside $3.9 billion in 2008 – on top of billions set aside earlier -- to make sure that problems like the ones identified here today get fixed,” she told them. “We created that fund so that our children would have the schools they deserve.”
Speaker after speaker decried the board’s failure to quickly approve and begin projects, particularly in poor communities. Several spoke to waiting years for action, and of their frustration with the Christie administration for essentially stopping the work of the Authority in 2010.
“We need projects approved, funded and started immediately. Our children deserve that.”
“For much of the last three years, the work that the School Development Authority was created to do has ground to a halt,” Blistan said. “Instead of spending money on students, we are spending money on overhead to support an authority that is failing to do its only job. Very few schools are being developed, and what little work is happening is moving much too slowly! It’s a disgrace, and it needs to end.”
“We need to have projects approved, funded and started immediately. Our children deserve that,” she added.
Several speakers urged the Board to hold future meetings in some of the schools in greatest need to repair or replacement. The board was noncommittal, only assuring the speakers that it was committed to addressing the problems, but offering no timelines or other assurances that the needs of children will be met more quickly and efficiently in the future.